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Stricter meat-labeling laws cause controversy

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Sep 16 2013 11:17:35 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

NBC Montana learned there is big controversy over new rules that require the meat industry to label products.

Last week Federal Judge Ketanji Jackson refused to block new regulation requiring the industry to add country of origin labels to steak, ribs and other cuts of meat.

NBC Montana has been sorting through the laws and what they mean for local meat-packers and consumers.

The meat industry was claiming the new laws would push the cost of meat up and they say it's not just stickers but the cost of tracking where every animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

With over 25 million cattle moved from field to market every year not only are they talking about more man-hours but big bucks.  

Adam Negethon has been butchering and packing at H & H Meats in Missoula for more than a decade and he tells us he thinks stricter labeling laws mean higher prices.

“The bigger industry is going to get hurt from it but not us,” says Negethon. “It'll just be another process for us.”  

Right now estimates are adding new labels will add 3.5 percent to overhead.

“One guy raises one thing here and we've got to raise it to stay even with those guys so we can continue to bring fresh, quality meat like buffalo,” Negethon tells us.  

At H & H Meats the labels tell customers what the product is and what it contains but the new labels would add more: where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

“Missoula resident Heather Maddox says if we know where products like mattress's and pillows come from, we should know where our food comes from.

“To me it makes perfect sense to have things labeled so I know exactly where it's coming from,” she says.  “Especially with the health issues we have in this country people need to start paying attention to what they're doing and what they're putting in themselves because sometimes going the absolute cheapest at a big story may not be the best quality.”  

Not everyone is on board with stricter labeling laws - the American Meat Institute plans to fight the rules.

They say the rules make it too expensive to do business and they question whether there is any health benefit to know where your dinner was born, raised and slaughtered.

“It’s going to cost them a lot of money and they know it's going to cost them a lot of money especially when they process a lot of animals,” Negethon tells NBC Montana.  

Negethon's figuring out just how much the new law would affect his bottom-line but he figures his customers should know what they're buying and where it's from.

“They take it home and it tastes good and it looks presentable,” says Negethon.  ‘It's packaged right, they know what it is, they know what they've bought and it's cost effective so that feels good for them.”

The owner of H & H Meats says if the American Meat Institute loses their lawsuit against the USDA he could see meat prices raise 3 to 5 percent nationally.

To review the current meat-labeling laws, click here.

To read the full statement made by the American Meat Institute, click here.